Researchers have 3D-printed an array of light receptors on a hemispherical surface. This discovery could lead to a “bionic eye” that could someday help blind people see or sighted people see better.

Researchers 3D-printed an image sensing array on a hemisphere — a prototype for a “bionic eye.” (University of Minnesota, McAlpine Group)

The team started with a hemispherical glass dome to demonstrate the ability to print electronics on a curved surface. Using a custom-built 3D printer, the process started with a base ink of silver particles. The dispensed ink stayed in place and dried uniformly instead of running down the curved surface. Then, semiconducting polymer materials were used to print photodiodes that convert light into electricity. The entire process took about an hour.

The process demonstrated 25 percent efficiency in converting the light into electricity with the fully 3D-printed semiconductors. Next steps are to create a prototype with more light receptors that are even more efficient, as well as a way to print on a soft hemispherical material that can be implanted into a real eye.

Watch a demo of the process on Tech Briefs TV here. For more information, contact Rhonda Zurn at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; 612-626-7959.


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This article first appeared in the October, 2018 issue of Tech Briefs Magazine.

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